Book Review – The Copper Promise by Jen Williams

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The Copper Promise

Jen Williams

Rating: 4 Stars

 

‘There are some tall stories about the caverns beneath the Citadel – about magic and mages and monsters and gods.

Wydrin of Crosshaven has heard them all, but she’s spent long enough trawling caverns and taverns with her companion Sir Sebastian to learn that there’s no money to be made in chasing rumours.

But then a crippled nobleman with a dead man’s name offers them a job: exploring the Citadel’s darkest depths. It sounds like just another quest with gold and adventure … if they’re lucky, they might even have a tale of their own to tell once it’s over.

These reckless adventurers will soon learn that sometimes there is truth in rumour. Sometimes a story can save your life…’

This was a great book, it sped past despite the page count and somehow it read like a TV series. I could pinpoint the end of each episode and the beginning of the next one. There was a wonderful cinematic quality to it that I really enjoyed and that I honestly wasn’t expecting.

The main trio – Wydrin, Sebastian and Frith – are all interesting and are good examples of traditional heroes pushed just a little to the left. Sir Sebastian’s fits the type of the huge swordsman, but he’s got a soft heart under that armour and has been drummed out of his order for being in a relationship with another – male –  knight. Wyndrin is the typical happy-go-lucky thief but she’s a woman and she’s far from just the comic relief: she’s got brains and a sense of self preservation and practicality lacking in the others. Frith is the crippled heir to a once great family, but he’s selfish, arrogant, out of control and only just starting to learn to be a good man again. They’re all far from perfect but they’re still likeable and you’ll very easily get wrapped up in the story.

It moves along at quite a pace and although it feels episodic it’s in a good way and the story isn’t disjointed at all.I also really enjoyed the sections with the ‘army’. I’m not going to say too much about this as it would spoil the plot but these shifts in POV were fascinating and seemed to fit really well with the rest of the novel. I hope there’s more of them in the next novel; their experiences with books and names were just wonderful.

There’s a lot of female power in this book: the army, the antagonist, the priestesses, the glassmaker (now she was BRILLIANT), Wyndrin’s Pirate Captain mother and Wydrin herself. They’re all dealt with really interestingly and they all demonstrate different facets of what it is to be female. I hope this continues in the next novel, I’d love to see it explored more.

That said, there was a reason this isn’t quite a five star novel. We never really see much of the main antagonist and although it’s the main arc, it doesn’t feel like a personal fight and so it never really feels as important as it should. It’s more like a frame narrative in which all the other interesting episodes happen. I wish it had been more than that because the mythology was intriguing and the section on the Island was brilliant. I also never really felt like the three main characters were in danger because they needed to be there at the end to deal with the ‘Big Bad’. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I didn’t want them to all get killed a la ASOIAF, but I did want to feel like they might not get out of some of the more implausible situations.

At its heart, this book is great heroic fantasy from an interesting angle. It’s a fun read with some deeper undercurrents which lets it stand out as something different. It stands alone quite well but there’s clear threads left hanging for future books  and I will definitely be picking them up from the library.

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